Johnny (Rowland) Fever

Much like that fever blister I had on my lip last month, Johnny Rowland just won’t go away.

The disgraced ex-governor, driven from office in 2004 and into federal prison on a corruption conviction, hungered for redemption after his release. So he mostly behaved like an exemplary ex-con, wearing an ankle-bracelet monitor and speaking to sympathetic groups about his arrogance and fall from grace. It was almost enough to fool me into thinking Rowland had changed.

Then about a year and a half later, Waterbury Mayor and close friend Michael Jarjura hired Rowland to be the city’s economic development coordinator at a salary of almost $100,000 a year. Then, while still working for the citizens of Waterbury full-time, Rowland took an afternoon drive-time gig at WTIC, forcing him to leave his cushy job in the Brass City every day after lunch.

If Rowland suffers a second collapse, let it be said here and now that the radio station is where it began. For, as the Register Citizen has so aptly pointed out in an editorial, WTIC is at the center of a growing scandal that calls its integrity directly into question.

So far, the station has stood by its man, insisting he disclosed his “unpaid volunteer” role in the congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley to WTIC officials and avoids talking about the 5th-district race on-air. However, Rowland failed to disclose it to an even more important constituency — his listeners.

The subsequent revelation that, during the time he was serving as a campaign volunteer, Rowland was being paid $30,000 by a company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband is even more troubling, fraught as it is with legal peril for the campaign and its advisor. Similar allegations from another 5th-district candidate are even more disturbing.

One of the things I love about the Internet is the immediate feedback and insight from the audience. Often some of the best points are made by readers. And the comment thread of the Register Citizen editorial is no exception.

Not only is it dishonest of WTIC to allow Rowland to host a political talk show and blast Wilson-Foley’s opponent, state Sen. Andrew Roraback, while not disclosing his relationship to listeners, but as one commenter observed:

The real issue with WTIC is not that Rowland hasn’t talked about the 5th district race, but …  This is one of the biggest political stories in the state and the fact that the biggest radio station in the district is not covering the story is amazing.

Bingo. As I stated emphatically in a recent CT News Junkie column, the Fightin’ 5th is easily the most interesting and competitive congressional race in the state. So it is unconscionable that it would be a forbidden subject on the highest-rated political talk show on the most powerful radio station in Connecticut. Any clear-headed station manager would put Rowland on a leave of absence until after the smoke has cleared in November.

But hey, as its daily line-up of conservative man-hosts clearly demonstrates, WTIC has hitched its wagon to the male tea-party audience, many of whom remain sympathetic to a former Republican governor whom they think was unfairly hounded out of office. What kind of radio station is willing to bite the hand that feeds it? An honest one; that’s what.

Perhaps Johnny would have been better off spinning disks and sounding hip, like his fictitious namesake at WKRP in Cincinnati. But I’m sure he’d find a way to screw that up, too.

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  • Striking

    What a stupid op-ed. It is part of the cabal to force WTIC to fire Rowland so that all the haters can get another pound of flesh. I won’t take the time to rebut this point by point, but to say it is tired, old, repetitive and replete with mischaracterizations would be kind. The rest of it is not worth my time to pick apart.

    • Peter_L1

      I guess these people would prefer to have Colin McEnroe back in the time slot bashing republicans for three hours a day. Rowland does a great service to the republican party by keeping that time slot in republican hands. Not to mention there is a process in place by the FEC to investigate complaints.

      The bloggers are not going to win this attempt to put a democrat back in the time slot. Kudos to WTIC for letting the process take place and not jumping to conclusions based on assumptions by Roraback’s hometown newspaper and a candidate’s opponent who is as dirty as they come (ask Sam how Greenberg is).

      • ctdevilsadvocate

        I have no desire to see Rowland fired. I have called on WTIC to put him on leave until the election is over. WTIC will not put McEnroe or any other liberal in that time slot. They have decided they’re going after the conservative-male-Limbaugh demographic.

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  • Hebee

    Terry, you need to let it go. I don’t know what Rowland did to you but WTIC has pick a starting team and their side of the aisle (Jim V., Rush and Rowland). Liberals don’t listen to AM radio (ask Colin Mac) and consequently don’t hear the ads on WTIC. They buy the stuff that is advertised on WPLR and WHCN. Move on Terry; life is too short.

    • ctdevilsadvocate

      Rowland did nothing to me personally, but he abused the public trust generally. He alone made the decision to inject himself back into the public discourse and become a player once again. When you do that, it’s hardly realistic to expect to stay out of the headlines.

      • Hebee

        It seems that in the Northeast, many prefer their Ex-Politician Commentators to be convicted, immoral, lying ego-maniacs. We also require that they possess just a dash of born-again, redemption seeking humility. You may tune in any day of the week to see and hear Chuck Colson (bad example, he’s dead), Al Sharpton, Elliott Spitzer, G. Gordon Liddy, Buddy Cianci and our own John Rowland. Isn’t it odd that some folks also require these same character flaws in their TV and Radio Evangelist Preachers? Go figure!